local dialect and culture issues in the classroom" (Language,
Culture and Curriculum vol.12, no.1, pp.31-41, 1999), Valerie
Youssef and Beverly-Anne Carter describe the experience of preparing
Spanish-speaking Venezuelan EFL students to perform a play in
Trinidad Creole. The students were enrolled in a short course
in Trinidad at the Lower Intermediate level. According to the
abstract of the article (p.31):
The exercise was used to teach local culture in
relation to the native culture of the students and also to teach
functional and grammatical re-lations between the local Standard
and Creole varieties. It also served to enhance a focus on pronunciation,
stress and intonation. The pro-cess was enthusiastically pursued
by the entire group, bringing them to a greater communi-cative
awareness than might have been achieved by other means in equivalent
time. The use of local drama for the purposes outlined is recommended
in the broader context of a need to equip 21st century students
with the tools to manipulate the international variety(ies) most
pertinent to their specific situation and needs.
In the same journal is: "A case study of the sociopolitical dilemmas
of Gullah-speaking students: Educational policy and practices"
by Meta Van Sickle, Olaiya Aina and Mary Blake (Language, Culture
and Curriculum vol.15, no.1, pp.75-88, 2002). The article starts
out with the statement (p.75): "Early research in reading comprehension
has supported the belief that divergent language usage has a negative
impact on the visible demonstration of academic achievement."
However, they put forward the alternative point of view that lower
comprehension scores "may be more a function of teachers not accepting
a reader's particular dialect than an actual lack of comprehension".
To investigate this question with regard to knowledge of science
and mathematics, the authors conducted an in-depth qualitative
study, over 3 years, of 12 students on Johns Island (South Carolina)
who speak a negatively valued creole language, Gullah. This involved
working with the students, listening to their stories, and discovering
their own knowledge and world view. Then they did content-specific
language development with the students to enable them "to communicate
their knowledge to the outside world" (p.81). The authors noted:
Because our goal was definitely not to eradicate
their native language and culture, we focused on code switching
as a means of preserving their heritage while giving them two
ways to communicate about the same topics. In addition, the alternative
terminology that we used with the students was designed to stretch
both their thinking and their precise use of words… (pp.81-2)
This resulted in the following (p.82): "While maintaining their
ability to describe a 'right' answer in a holistic manner (as
is typical in the Gullah language), they have become more precise
and detailed in their writing (more typical of Standard English)."
The authors report that all students seem to have benefited as
a result of the project, in terms of being released from the Special
Education Program, passing the South Carolina Exit Exam, or graduating
with a diploma. The article concludes with the following suggestions
1. teachers must learn enough about the culture
and language of the children to be able to find the right answers
in what the students do say.
2. Schools must
develop a local curriculum that builds on the students' strengths
and gives them options for communicating the knowledge they possess.
It is necessary to understand the life experiences that the students
have in order for the teacher to use relevant examples.
education, and the Ebonics firestorm" by John R. Rickford is
a chapter in Linguistics, Language and the Professions, papers
from the Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and
Linguistics 2000, edited by James E. Alatis, Heidi E. Hamilton
and Ai-Hui Tan (Georgetown Uni-versity Press, Washington DC,
2002), pp.25-45. The author presents disturbing statistics showing
how K-12 schools have been failing African-American students,
and describes how the 1996 resolution by the Oakland School
Board attempted to take corrective action. He illustrates how
the goal of the nine recommendations was basically to use the
students' home language - African-American Vernacular English,
or Ebonics - as a bridge to learning standard English. The goal
was not to teach Ebonics to African-American students, as was
falsely portrayed by the media and most commentators.
The chapter goes on to present four arguments for the Contrastive
Analysis (CA) approach advocated for use by the Oakland School
Board resolutions: (1) The approach proceeds from a position
of strength, using a valid, systematic variety that the students
are already competent in. (2) It is likely to have positive
effects on both teachers' expectations and vernacular-speaking
students' self-identity and motivation. (3) Other alternatives,
such as ignoring or constantly correcting students' vernaculars,
simply do not work. (4) Several empirical studies demonstrate
that CA really works. Finally, the author refutes several arguments
against the CA approach.
|The book Literacy
in African American Communities edited by Joyce L. Harris, Alan
G. Kamhi and Karen E. Pollock (Erlbaum, Marwah NJ, 2001) contains
a chapter by Noma LeMoine entitled "Language variation and literacy
in African American students" (pp.169-94). This chapter examines
"the implications of language variation for teaching SAE [Standard
American English] and school literacy to African American children
for who standard English is not native" (p.170). It starts out
with background information about the origins of what she calls
"African American Language" and about the "deficit" and "difference"
perspectives towards the language. Then the author describes
six approaches used by effective teachers of African American
SELLs [Standard English Language Learners] (pp.176-87):
Build knowledge and understanding of non-standard languages
and the students who use them.
Integrate linguistic knowledge about African American language
Use second language acquisition methods to support acquisition
of school language and literacy.
Use a balanced approach to literacy acquisition that incorporates
language experience, whole language/access to books, and
Infuse the history and culture of SELLs into the curriculum.
Consider the learning styles and strengths of African American
SELLs in designing instruction.
of the chapter lists important features of the classroom environment
and several kinds of instructional strategies that foster
literacy acquisition in African American SELLs.
The author of the
book chapter just described, Noma LeMoine, is director of the Los
Angeles School District's Academic English Mastery Program (AEMP),
designed to serve the language needs of students who are not proficient
in Standard American English (SAE). A comprehensive evaluation of
this program was conducted in 1998-99. The report of this evaluation,
prepared by Ebrahim Maddahian and Ambition Padi Sandamela, was published
by the Program Evaluation and Research Branch of the Research and
Evaluation Unit of the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2000
(Publication No. 781).
The main purpose of this evaluation was to determine the effectiveness
of the Academic English Mastery Program (AEMP) in increasing students'
general and academic use of Mainstream English Language (MEL) as
measured by the Language Assessment Writing and Speaking Measures.
A pretest-posttest control design was used to examine the impact
of the AEMP over time. The pretest-posttest condition allows measuring
student academic gain influence by confounding effects of maturation
(time) and program effect. A control group was selected to isolate
program impact from the maturation effect. (p.vi)
The most important finding of the study was:
There was a statistically significant and educa-tionally
meaningful difference between experi-mental and control groups at
the end of the pro-gram as measured by the Language Assessment Writing
Test. AEMP program participants out-performed those who did not
participate in the program. (p.vii).
The authors concluded
that the AEMP is "an effective program in improving academic use
of English language for speakers of non-mainstream English language"
(p.vii) and recommended that the program be continued and expanded.
The Department of
Education in the state of Western Australia has just published a
useful resource kit about Aboriginal English called Ways of Being,
Ways of Talk (2002). It is the result of a collaborative project
between the Department of Education, Western Australia, and the
Centre for Applied Language and Literacy Research, Edith Cowan University.
The materials comprise four videos and a booklet including information
about using the materials, a glossary of terms, scripts and background
papers for each of the videos, and information on other related
resources, readings and websites. The videos are: "A shared world
of communication", "Now you see it, now you don't", "Two-way learning
and two kinds of power" and "Moving into other worlds".